Black Coffee (2007 film)

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Black Coffee
Black Coffee (DVD).png
Directed by Irene Angelico
Produced by Ina Fichman
Written by Irene Angelico,
Harold Crooks
Music by Freeworm
Edited by Alfonso Peccia
Distributed by Mongrel Media
Release date
  • February 5, 2007 (2007-02-05) (Australia)
Running time
174 minutes
Country Canada
Language English

Black Coffee is a 2007 Canadian documentary film examining the complicated history of coffee and detailing its political, social, and economic influence from the past to the present day.

The film details how coffee is the eighth most traded legal commodity in the world. It is also the fourth most valuable agricultural commodity. However, only one cent of a $2 cup of coffee goes to the grower.[1] This inequality has helped shape the history of continents and the Cold War.


Note: This covers the last half.

In 1773, coffee was marginal in North America, but after the Boston Tea Party, one's political affiliation and patriotism could increasingly be determined by whether they drank coffee or tea. Coffee's mass production in the Americas started when the wife of the governor for French Guinea gave her departing Brazilian lover, Francisco Polletta, flowers with hidden fertile coffee beans, as exporting them was illegal. The smuggled beans enabled Brazil to become the world powerhouse in coffee production, driving the country's modernization, decimation of its rain forest, and bolstering the slave trade. The crop created vast wealth for the coffee barons and made Brazil the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery.

In the early 19th century, most people roasted their own coffee at home. When the self-emptying roaster and the paper bag were invented, John Arbuckle saw an opportunity to sell pre-roasted coffee to the masses and created a machine that "filled, weighed, sealed and labeled coffee in paper packages."[2] "Arbuckle Ariosa Coffee" became a nationwide brand and was particularly popular with settlers, who gave it credit for helping to "win the west." J. A. Folger and his brothers ventured to San Francisco for the gold rush but he ended up staying in the city to work as a carpenter, building the mill for a coffee and spice company. Folger soon realized a fortune could be made by roasting and grinding coffee for prospectors who didn't have the luxuries of home.

Boom and bust growing cycles deeply affected South America's coffee-producing economy. Overproduction in Brazil drove coffee prices low enough to stoke fears of a revolt, leading to an orchestrated effort to hold back coffee production and boost the price. Many plantations defied the limits and even increased their coffee production so they could cash in while the price was artificially high, causing the coffee market to crash just weeks before the Wall Street Crash of 1929 brought on the Great Depression. The coffee crash toppled the Brazilian government in the Revolution of 1930, after which the coffee barons installed Getúlio Vargas to lead a strong-man regime, He ordered mass burning of coffee stockpiles, but the price did not recover.

During the depression independent coffee brands go bankrupt or are consolidated by the large brands. In World War II instant coffee became the preferred way to keep soldiers alert and warm, and coffee control measures were put in action in South America because of concerns it may side with the Nazis if its economy continued to languish. So the United States bought out Brazilian coffee production from 1941 to 1943. When the war was over American coffee companies began a price war over instant coffee, resulting in cheaper beans and diluted coffee. Canadians on the other hand had standard brewed Tim Hortons coffee to go with their donuts, while Maxwell House launches one of the longest running and most successful advertising campaigns for coffee. Consumers continue to drink less coffee, so caffeine-free Sanka coffee is created in an effort to stimulate demand.

In the mid-1950s bad weather in Brazil resulted in a higher price in coffee and congressional hearings. At the 1950 hearings an advocate for South America clarified that there are large obstacles and much development still needed in South America, and if a fair price for coffee was established it would lift millions out of poverty. This speech was largely ignored by coffee producers and consumers; so coffee growing countries create Juan Valdez in an effort to educate the American consumer and the Pan-American Coffee Bureau popularizes the term coffee break. However, despite higher consumption the price remains low as Brazil continues to overproduce; and calls are made for Getúlio Vargas' impeachment. Vargas writes a letter regarding the imposed production of coffee on his country and then commits suicide.

This underlines an era of communism in South America where coffee plantations are taken over and the CIA sponsors coups to take back the coffee producing countries. In order to stem communist revolutions in South America, the United States enters into the International Coffee Agreement. Introducing a quota system that limits the amount countries import and export in order to keep the price stable and sustainable, but there is constant disagreement between countries how much they should be allowed to import, and in 1989 with end of the Cold War the system ended causing a dramatic drop in prices. Brazil responds by modernizing and automating its coffee production; allowing for profitability even when prices drop; and Vietnam's coffee production increases dramatically in a decade. Causing a crisis in many South American and Central American countries that have not modernized their coffee plantations.

These consequences make headlines when 14 Mexican coffee farmers die as they try to cross the border into Arizona looking for work. Slowly there is increasing awareness among consumers of where their coffee is grown and who benefits from it.

Brazil has been adversely effected by deregulation in the 1990s, which has seen boom and bust cycles in the coffee market. This, in combination with industrial scale production, has made the price of green coffee beans historically low and places additional financial pressure on farmers. In an attempt to combat this, experts sought to create a higher quality Brazilian blend that could fetch higher prices.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Book: Uncommon Grounds-Revised Edition. By, Mark Pendergrast. Pg. XIX
  2. ^ Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]